Minnesota’s lakes have always been popular destinations for boating and fishing, particularly during the summer months. Sometimes those who partake in this enjoyable recreational activity also view boating as a chance to relax and enjoy a few or more alcoholic beverages. However, did you know that you can possibly be arrested and charged with the crime of boating while intoxicated in Minnesota?
Minnesota law provides that it is illegal to operate a motorized boat while under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Penalties for a boating while intoxicated conviction are essentially the same as those associated with a driving while intoxicated offense. A first time boating while intoxicated offense is a misdemeanor criminal offense and punishable by up to ninety days in jail, a fine of $1,000, and the suspension of your boat-operating privileges for ninety days.
BWI Aggravating Factors
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your offense, and depending on the severity of the offense, you can face lengthier jail sentences, significant fines, mandatory monitoring and/or assessment, and even the forfeiture of your boat that was involved in the offense. Aggravating factors that can cause you to face these harsher penalties include operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 percent or more; any prior driving while intoxicated convictions within the ten years before your BWI charge; and having passengers on your boat who are younger than sixteen at the time of your offense.
Interestingly, while the penalties associated with a boating while intoxicated conviction are basically the same as those for a driving while intoxicated conviction, there are some slight differences between what constitutes a BWI versus a DWI. For example, while it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your motor vehicle, the same does not apply to motorized boats. In other words, while you cannot have an open can of beer or bottle of wine in your motor vehicle, you can have the same open alcohol containers on your boat.
Physical Control Element of Boating Under the Influence of Alcohol
In addition, the physical control aspect of a DWI offense is different as it applies to a BWI offense. In Minnesota, even if you are not physically driving your vehicle, you can still be charged with DWI if you are found to be impaired and to have physical control over the vehicle. For example, you can potentially be charged with DWI in Minnesota if you are under the influence of alcohol, and you are sitting inside your vehicle with the keys in your hand.
The broadness of this physical control element does not apply to motorized boats, meaning that, even though one may be intoxicated while on a boat, so long as that individual is not exercising control of the wheel of the boat and the craft is not being propelled by a motor, you cannot be charged with boating while intoxicated just by your mere presence on the boat. However, if the individual is the only person on the boat at the time of police contact, there may be circumstantial evidence indicating the person drove the boat to its present location on the water and he or she could be subsequently charged.
If you or someone you know has plans to operate a boat and drink alcohol, or operate a boat and consume illegal drugs, be sure you designate someone to stay sober in order to safely operate the boat. Even a first-time boating while intoxicated conviction can have serious consequences, including jail time, fines, and the suspension of your boating privileges.
Minnesota BWI Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with boating while intoxicated, it is important that you speak with a seasoned and experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Attorney Douglas Kans and his defense team can review the facts and evidence in your case, advise you of your rights and responsibilities under the law, and help you determine your best legal options and chances for a successful outcome.